Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Caitlin Gregg.
The U.S. SuperTour is back underway after a short post-Nationals break, picking up with the Tour de Twin Cities.
Rosie Brennan and Mark Iverson gave APU a sweep of the 5/10k freestyle event drawing first blood in the five-stage Tour.
Brennan, coming of strong performances at U.S. Nationals, skied to a 14.1 second victory over Erika Flowers (SMST2). Caitlin Gregg (CXC) was third, another 0.8 seconds back in the individual start event.
Despite limited natural snow, organizers were able to assemble a 5 k loop, extending a 3.3 k circuit made primarily of artificial snow.
Brennan told FasterSkier that the course was “quite dirty and very sugary,” but was still impressive given there is no other skiing in the Twin Cities.
She started hard in a race that took just over twelve minutes.
“I got sick during Nationals so I hadn’t done much training coming into these races so I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get the engine revving high enough for my first 5km and sea level race this season,” Brennan said.
With no coaches on course, and starting first in the A seed, she had no splits. Her only benchmark was the rough measuring stick of staying clear of later starters.
Flowers wasn’t getting splits either, and just focused on hunting Kate Fitzgerald (APU) and Brennan who started in the two spots ahead.
“I was just trying to ski hard and catch them the whole time,” she told FasterSkier.
Like Brennan she was impressed by the conditions given the rain of the previous weekend, and described the course as “really fun and fast with lots of turns, transitions, and quick ups and downs.”
Fitzgerald ended up in fourth just over eight seconds in back of Gregg. Clare Egan (CGRP) rounded out the top-five, 2.8 seconds behind Fitzgerald.
“I was super happy about my race today,” Gregg wrote in an email. “I skied as hard as I could. 5K Skate races are incredibly painful and I left everything out on the course. I finished the race and thought that I had finally won a race this season, when the results came out and I saw that I was third my first reaction was, Oh man these girls (Rosie and Erika) are fast!”
Iverson Strong and Steady for the Win
In the men’s 10k Iverson outpaced Torin Koos (BSF) by just 9.3 seconds.
Teammate Brenton Knight was third, +17.1 seconds.
Iverson started toward the back of the A seed, and when he passed Gordon Vermeer and heard that Vermeer was just ten seconds off the lead, he knew he was battling at the top.
“I just went out relaxed and tried to ski strong,” Iverson wrote to FasterSkier in an email. “I didn’t really surge anywhere, I just skied a steady pace and then tried to keep pushing through to the finish.”
Heading into the big climb the last time, Iverson got another split — he was five seconds down on the lead.
He finished strong, good enough for a clear victory.
“My hat goes off to Mark, I heard he really pinned it at the end, pickpocketing the victory from me,” Koos wrote to FasterSkier in an email.
“Today, I just didn’t have that edge that I been needed to win,” he continued. “It wouldn’t be surprising, though, if today’s effort gives me that little bit I was missing for tomorrow.”
The victory was Iverson’s first on the SuperTour and spoiled somewhat of a homecoming for Koos.
The three-time Olympian was born in Minneapolis and has been told he first strapped on skis in the city’s well known Theodore Wirth park.
“I have always wanted to race in the Twin Cities, and now I finally get my chance,” said Koos who had various aunts and uncles on course supporting him.
Iverson raced a 20k NCAA collegiate race last weekend, placing second in a sprint finish, giving him confidence as he bounced back from illness that caused him to sit out the 30k at Nationals.
“Yesterday I felt really comfortable in race prep so I thought I could be in there for a top 5 today,” Iverson said.
After rough first part of the season, marred by illness, Knight was “stoked” with his performance.
“This is a big turnaround from early in the season for me. I never like getting beat by my best friend and training partner Mark in a distance race, but I’m so proud of his result today. We’ve been training together a long time and I’m pumped to share a podium with him today,” Knight told FasterSkier.
Like many of the skiers, Knight did not get any splits, instead “using the bends and curves to gauge the distance of the skiers starting behind.”
Knight raced last weekend in a collegiate race in Colorado, and “felt strong for the first time this season felt strong for the first time this season.”
After the rough start to the year, Knight said his goal was “first and foremost to have fun. It’s easy to stress out about results when the results early in the season are not complimenting the hard training done during the summer and fall.”
The 28-year-old held off Matt Leibsch by five seconds to hold the final podium spot.
“We always want to win, but sometimes if the race strategy is just to go out and ski smooth and strong, the results will follow,” Knight said.
Racing continues on Sunday with a 15/20k mass start classic race, followed by a classic sprint on Monday.
After a four-day break, the Tour wraps up the following weekend with yet another classic event, a 5/10k individual start this time.
The final day features a 10/15k freestyle pursuit for the overall.
Iverson is looking forward to the mass start, entering the race as the Tour leader.
“Classic is typically my stronger distance discipline and I can have faith in my fitness after today. It’s going to be fun,” Iverson said.
The men are scheduled to ski six 3.3k loops, and the women five laps.
Temperatures are expected to plummet overnight, and frigid conditions are expected for the next two days of racing.
“I am really excited to start the Tour out on a high note,” Brennan said. “It’s always good to carry confidence through a long race series.”
And Knight will be looking to take revenge on his teammate Iverson.
“I’ll just have to take him in the sprint here in a couple of days to beat him on his stronger event typically. Keep it even you know!” Knight said.
— Alex Matthews contributed reporting
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.